DETROIT - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed the Healthy Michigan plan into law, which will expand the state's Medicaid program to eventually cover 470,000 additional Michigan residents.
It's a bold move that will help people like Briana Parker. She's headed to law school, but right now has part-time jobs, and no health insurance.
"I think it's a great thing, especially for low-income people like myself. I would be able to qualify for some of the benefits that I was able to before," Parker said.
The expansion allows Michigan to cover residents who earn up to 133percent of the poverty level: about $15,000 for individuals and $31,000 for a family of four.
Health advocates say the new coverage will help plenty of working families in Michigan. "Most uninsured people in our state and in the country are working Americans who simply don't have coverage as part of their jobs," said Nancy Schlichting the CEO of Henry Ford Health System.
So, people like Parker will now be eligible for benefits under Medicaid. She's among 470,000 people who will be newly eligible in the coming years.
"This is an amazing day for so many people in the state of Michigan," said Gilda Jacobs, CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. Her organization fights for the economically vulnerable people of Michigan. She says the change will allow lower-income people to take charge of their medical care.
"Now, people are going to be able to sign up and have a medical home. So, if you will, they'll have a primary care physician who they can go to when they're not feeling well," said Jacobs.
Advocates, like Jacobs, hope that will stop patients from making costly visits to the emergency room for basic medical care. "This allows them to have a relationship with a primary care doctor and to really manage any problems they have in a much more effective way," said Schlichting.
Future law student Parker has been in that situation. "It's kind of scary because you're not able to take preventative measures to make sure you're okay," she said.
One big challenge for the state is to make sure people know about the expanded coverage so they can sign up. Schlichting says health care providers and hospitals will be spreading the word, and that's not all.
"Obviously, churches, community centers, seniors centers, you know wherever people congregate they're going to learn about this legislation," said Schlichting.
The state will have a few months to spread the word.
Republicans in the state senate blocked the law from going into effect immediately. So, the new coverage won't go into effect until late March or early April.
As for Parker, the coming change brings a sense of relief. "It makes me feel safer," she said.